Central Park is over 800 acres of blissful green space in the center of the concrete jungle to end all concrete jungles. Let’s face it: the park is less of a luxury and more of a necessity in New York City. Find out what to do in Central Park, who should visit the park, how much time to spend in Central Park, reasons why you shouldn’t go, and when to visit Central Park.
Iconic: Thanks to its world-wide exposure in movies and TV shows, Central Park is one of the most recognizable attractions in New York City.
Photographic: Created during the City Beautiful movement, the park is a natural wonder of beauty and has dozens of photographic statues and buildings.
Architectural: Though the original plans for the park didn’t include public buildings, many ornate structures grace Central Park, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boathouse, the Dairy, and Tavern on the Green.
Kid Friendly: Central Park is one of the most kid friendly activities in New York City, thanks to kid-oriented attractions like playgrounds, the Central Park Zoo, the Alice and Wonderland statue, the rowboats, and bicycle riding.
Historic: Designed in 1858 and built by famous parks builders Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, Central Park changed New York City’s landscape and history by offering access to green spaces in an otherwise concrete city.
Outdoorsy: The epitome of outdoorsy, Central Park offers both locals and visitors a small respite from the hustle and bustle of the city–if only for a few hours.
Cinematic: Not only is the park a great place to check out a free movie in the summertime, it’s also been the setting for many movies and TV shows, including Elf, You’ve Got Mail, Home Alone 2, Friends with Benefits, and Law and Order. Check out more movies filmed in Central Park.
Theatric: Central Park is home to Shakespeare in the Park, a “free” theater experience that allows audience members to see famous actors in Shakespearean roles each summer.
Musical: Locals and visitors flock to the park to see free and paid concert series in the summer as well as special performances by the Metropolitan Opera and New York Symphony.
Celebrity: Despite its touristy vibe, Central Park also draws thousands of locals daily–including celebrities who live just off the park.
Sporty: The park is the perfect spot for boating, rollerblading, and cycling. You can even join a pick-up game of soccer (sorry non-Americans!), baseball, or even Quidditch.
Like a Local: You’ll share some space in Central Park with both tourists and locals as the park is a hotspot for both. Pitch a blanket near the Boathouse, or join a game of softball to enjoy the park like a local.
Cost/Money Savers: Free!
- Though the park is free to visit, some activities inside charge a fee, like the Central Park Zoo, Victorian Gardens amusement park, rowboat rentals, the carousel, etc. Check out the discount passes for discounts within the park.
- Sometimes paid attractions offer discounts on Groupon, LivingSocial, and Goldstar. Check out their websites for current deals.
Time Commitment/Time Savers:
Fly-By: 15 minutes. You can easily hop into Central Park from its southern border at 59th Street for a quick (yet impressive) photo if you don’t have time to explore further.
In-Depth: How much time to spend in Central Park? Two-to-four hours. I recommend seeing Central Part in two sections: the southern section and the northern section.
- Take a tour of Central Park! It’s super easy to get lost here, and you can save yourself some valuable “getting lost” time by taking a 1.5-2 hour tour of the park. How much time to spend in Central Park greatly depends on whether or not you get lost!
- Take my self-guided tour of Central Park if you are great with Google Maps but want to dig a little deeper into the park’s history and spend less time wondering what you’re supposed to be looking at.
- Sign up for a bike tour, or rent a bike if you want to save even more time (and see the whole park!). Central Park is freakin’ huge, and you’ll get to see more in less time by bike.
Need to Know:
- During high tourist seasons, the park gets pretty crowded–especially the bike paths. Try to head to Central Park early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds.
- FAQ: Is Central Park Safe at night? Yes and no. The park is MUCH safer than it was in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. That being said, always use common sense and basic safety measures in any area of New York City.
Why You Should Skip:
- If you want to see a park that’s just as beautiful as Central Park–without all the tourists–head to Prospect Park instead (see other ways to see below).
- Central Park isn’t the most exciting activity in inclemate weather; you might want to skip in the dead heat of the summer, the extreme cold of the winter, or anytime it rains.
When to Go:
Early in the morning or in the evening during high tourist times; any other time otherwise. To determine how much time to spend in Central Park, you’ll need to take note of how busy the park can get during peak times.
How to Get There:
Walking: To get to the park from the south side, walk up to 59th Street and 5th or 8th Avenues. To access the park from the north, head to 101st street.
Subway: You can get to the southern part of the park by taking the R or W trains to 59th Street, the A, C, E, B, or D trains to Columbus Circle, or the F and M trains to 7th Avenue.
Taxi/Car: If you want to get from one side of the park to the other without walking, I recommend hailing a taxi on 5th Avenue or 8th Avenue. It’s cheap (around $5 for up to four people) and gets the city out of yo’ face for a hot minute.
Bus: The M79 bus also takes you crosstown from one side of the park to the other without walking.
Related Attractions/Other Ways to See:
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Check out a great view of Central Park from the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from May through October (closed during inclement weather). Just pay the price of admission (pay what you wish) to get to the rooftop for as little as $1.
If you’re trying to determine how much time to spend in Central Park because you’re on a time crunch, the Met is a great option.
Prospect Park: Also built by Calvert and Vaux in the 1800s, Prospect Park offers some respite from the city–without all the tourists. If you want to live like a local, head here. It’s just a little less developed and a teensy bit smaller. But I’m biased as I live only a block from this “hidden” treasure.
How do you determine how much time to spend in Central Park? Let me (and the readers) know if you’d spend more or less time by commenting below!
Need more inspiration on how to focus only on what you love in NYC? Check out a full list of attractions.
Don’t forget to read a few articles on how to hack New York City, so you can see more, do more, and stress less!